Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stereotypes Are Not The Problem; Being a Dick Is

I will give kudos to George Takei for sharing the particular article linked here as well as kudos to Nalin Gupta who wrote the article. It was refreshing to see someone articulate that gender inequality and stereotypes are not simply a female problem. And, although not explicitly stated, and perhaps even counter to the point, it helped me to realize the true issue at hand. In all reality, stereotypes are not the problem; being a dick is.

In all the things depicted in the article, the problem became apparent through shaming. Men are shamed for being weak and "girly." I argue that this is not a problem with stereotyping. Stereotypes are useful in many ways and are quite often accurate for the larger part of the population. They also demonstrate preferences of the majority which is helpful to know. The only time this becomes a "problem" is when people choose to belittle others who do not fit the cookie-cutter norms. The problem is not the cookie cutter; it is the people who think everyone ought to be a particular shape of cookie.

The rough and tough man image is a common stereotype of manliness. One that I do not fit in the slightest. I am weak, I do not like sports, I do not know the difference between rib-eye, sirloin, and what-have-you, I have no interest in guns, and I know very little about the mechanics of vehicles. These are all great stereotypes of the typical male of which I do not align with. Is this a problem? By no means. I have no problem with the fact that I do not fit this stereotype. And sure, if someone throws a male-oriented party focusing on sports, guns, and women I am going to be under-enthused. And yet, the majority of males are likely to enjoy the party. And that is great for them. I will just hold a different party with people more like me. The problem truly starts, however, when people mock me for my weakness and lack of knowledge in sports and automobiles. I could not care less about my lack of fitting the stereotypical norm and those who do care only care because they have been degraded for it. So again, it comes down to mocking and jeering rather than the norm itself.

The depictions of men and women in magazines and movies are generally the stereotypical roles because that is what most people idolize. If they idolized something else, surely the media would pick up on it and sell that instead. They sell what people want. People want curvy women and buff, hairless men. If all things were equal in personality and we each had to choose between sexy or fat, the majority of us would prefer the sexy. We might choose the fat simply out of fear because we, ourselves, are fat and feel unworthy, but that does not mean we truly prefer it. The average person prefers non-fat. But all things are not equal. I am desirable because of my personality, not because of my physical build. Someone with a muscular build might be far inferior to me because he is a complete jerk. I need not be "manly" to be appreciated or valued. I wish I were a nicer build, of course, since most people would prefer it, but this is no different than most people preferring sweet to sour. I will bring donuts to work sooner than lemons even if I am a lemon fanatic simply because I know what people prefer.

Stereotypes provide a means for knowing what most people prefer. Most girls prefer pink, soft, and cuddly so I am more likely to succeed in making a girl happy by giving her something soft and pink. Not all women are this way so I may find that it does not work with some girls, but for the average girl it would be sufficient. That does not make a woman any less valuable if she is more into sports than bunnies. It is simply not typical. And in this day and age, few people seem to even care about typical. Most people seem to want to be unique. Many people value uniqueness. The problem resides in those that do not value this uniqueness. Again, it comes down to people being rude. This is the problem we must fix. We need not remove stereotypes, we need to train people in tolerance and kindness.

It is not typical for a man to dress in women's clothing and, even if I were interested in doing so, I would not do it for the sake of my career. Knowing the preferences of those around me, I am going to avoid those things which are likely not to be shared preferences. In the same way, if I know that everyone is a Star Wars fan at work, I am not likely to dress up my cube with Star Trek paraphernalia unless I am looking forward to some [potentially friendly] harassment. The problem would only be with the jerks who think I am less of a person for preferring Star Trek. There would be no problem with stereotyping my workplace as a Star Wars-loving enterprise even though I am more into Star Trek. I would not fit the stereotype, and yet it is not a problem to recognize that the stereotype exists. Stereotypes are nothing more than preferences or qualities of the majority. There is nothing wrong with them. We simply need to be fair to those who do not fit within them as neatly as others. We need not fight stereotypes and tropes, we need merely combat being an ass-hat.


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